Does technology help or worsen loneliness? The answer may not be as simple as it seems.
It’s the question people have been asking since the internet changed life as we knew it: Does technology cause loneliness, or cure it? This is a complicated question due to the intricacies associated with it. You cannot take a one-size fits all approach when attempting to discover the answer.
Rather, if trying to answer the question for yourself, you must look at your individual circumstances, motivations, and human connection. Only when you look at these areas will you truly be able to answer whether technology is improving or worsening your loneliness.
Let’s take a deeper look at how to utilize technology in a positive manner, without overdoing it. To do so, we will discuss:
Before we get into the impact technology has on loneliness, let’s first cover why human connection is so important. For our purposes, right now we are going to think of human connection as in-person interaction.
Human connection benefits several areas of our life. It makes us less likely to experience mental health issues, improves our physical health, and increases our satisfaction with life. Having at least one moment of human connection everyday gives us something to look forward to, therefore making it easier to battle negative thoughts and feelings.
Think of how much better you feel after simply leaving the house, even if it's not for long. This feeling is why human connection is so necessary in our lives.
Oftentimes when thinking of the relationship between technology and loneliness, many people assume that technology increases feelings of loneliness. This is due to people associating the internet, especially social media, with physical isolation.
While that may be true in some aspects, technology also has the power to link us to people we may never have known if not for the global connection of the internet. Therefore, in some ways, technology has allowed us to become more connected than ever. Looking at it from this perspective, technology may appear to have lessened loneliness.
However, in order to truly analyze the effect technology has on loneliness, we must look to studies that provide us with concrete data.
Studies reveal that technology is likely to worsen loneliness when we are substituting it for our real-life connections. For instance, if an individual was solely maintaining all their personal relationships through text or social media, rather than conversing in real life, this would likely make that individual feel more lonely.
This is because of our need for human connection. Because of this, it is impossible to rely on technology as our only form of connection, which is what made the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic so difficult.
Technology helps us avoid loneliness in situations where it is being paired with human connection. Studies show that it even lowers depression and anxiety rates. This is due to the fact that it provides an outlet for connection when one is unable to meet in person that we would otherwise not have.
For example, if an individual were to move to a new location for their job and therefore could not see their family as often, technology is a way to maintain connection. They could facetime, phone call, or do any number of other things with technology.
However, as we discussed before, this only works if you also maintain real-life connections. Therefore, it is important that you still interact with people in the real world, such as having a conversation at work, going to lunch with your friends, or participating in a group exercise class.
Now that we’ve discussed both human connection and technology, let’s look at some strategies regarding the two areas.
As stated, both technology and human connection can help reduce loneliness. The best way to do this is to balance both human connection and technology in combination with one another. Some ways to do this include:
One of the best ways you can stay connected with people online, while simultaneously limiting your technology use, is through limiting the time per day you spend on social media. Many phones and social media apps allow you to set a device limit per day.
Doing so ensures that you are unable to continue using social media once you have reached your daily limit. This is a great way to stay disciplined in regard to technology use.
Actively scheduling social activities with your friends or family in advance allows you to set aside dedicated time for human connection. This is important in ensuring that you are interacting with others in-person, rather than just through the internet.
FaceTiming those who you are close to is a great way to use technology to stay connected even in long-distance scenarios.
However, it is important to note that merely FaceTiming is not enough for most individuals to quell loneliness. There must also be an aspect of in-person interaction such as a monthly or semi-annual meetup with those who you have a long-distance relationship with.
Joining an online community is one of the best ways to combine both technological advancements with human connection. Nowadays, technology is oftentimes the best way to find a community for yourself. Let’s look at a book club as an example.
Using social media, such as Facebook groups, you can find local book clubs near you. Initially, you connect with these individuals online, introduce yourself, and join the club. Likely, the book club will have weekly or monthly in-person meetings where you can chat about the book you’re reading, get to know one another, and form bonds.
This is a great example of how technology, when used in an appropriate fashion, can reduce loneliness and promote human connection.
As we have seen, technology has the power to both increase or decrease feelings of loneliness. However, if you find the right balance between human connection and technology, it can become a powerful tool in shaping your life for the better.